What is a “Reasonable Person” – and How Does it Affect My Injury Case?

Categories: Personal Injury

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Washington Attorneys Explain the “Reasonable Person” Standard in Personal Injury Cases

In personal injury law, a “reasonable person” is a hypothetical individual created in legal fiction who is the representation of the standard care established by the courts and communicated through case law. This person is essentially the definition of what others should and would do in certain situations.

For a person to be negligent, he or she must not be acting reasonably. That is what separates a common accident from one of the negligent acts. The standard of care is also required because the reasonable person theory is combined with the standard of care to determine if a person was negligent in a situation.

So, Who is a Reasonable Person?

The courts have created a fictional “reasonable” individual in society so that a person being accused of negligence has someone to be compared against. The reasonable person in law is ideal, and the courts look at how a person with ordinary prudence would react in a situation.

The test is to determine if the defendant was acting as a reasonable person by being objective and considering the abilities of that defendant. Therefore, a person with little intelligence is still held to the standard of a cautious person, or even someone of higher intelligence.

A jury or judge overseeing the case is typically the one who decides if the defendant has acted unlike a reasonable person. To make that decision, the judge or jury considers the conduct of the defendant – in other words, what the defendant knew, perceived, and experienced at the time is all considered.

For example, say that a defendant knows it is against the law to speed, but chooses to speed anyway and causes a catastrophic accident. Thus, the jury determines that the respondent was aware that the actions were harmful and illegal. Therefore, the defendant breached what is expected of a reasonable person in that same situation.

In addition to what a person would know, the jury considers the knowledge that is familiar to people in the community. For example, they would assess how many people in the community would reasonably act otherwise. Using the speeding example, the jury would determine that a reasonable person in the community would know that the posted speed limit is not to be exceeded, and doing so is breaking the law.

How Does the Reasonable Person Standard Affect My Case?

When you file a negligence-based claim, the reasonable person standard is critical. In fact, your entire personal injury case hinges on whether you can prove to the courts that the defendant did not act like a rational individual. This means showing that the defendant was aware that his or her actions were wrong, and that the behavior is not one that others in society would do or consider reasonable.

Your personal injury lawyer is your best asset for proving negligence and establishing that a defendant breached the reasonable person standard.

Contact a Washington Personal Injury Attorney to Help Establish Your Case

After a serious injury, there is plenty to prove. Do not shoulder the burden of collecting evidence or trying to determine what a reasonable person would have done. Instead, contact a personal injury attorney for assistance. Brett McCandlis Brown, PLLC is here to work as your advocate. Our injury lawyers aggressively protect our clients’ right to compensation, and we are here to support you through this devastating time. Schedule a consultation now at 800-925-1875 or request more information online.